The City of West Hollywood kicked-off pride season on Harvey Milk Day this Monday as part of the its six-week WeHo Pride Arts Festival. This year, in light of the wave of anti-drag legislation and protests across the nation, the City hosted the first ever José Sarria Drag Pageant.
The José Sarria Drag Pageant was organized by the City of West Hollywood and HIT, and co-sponsored by the Imperial Court. The event took place at the West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center’s Respite Deck, located at 8750 El Tovar Place, adjacent to West Hollywood Library.
The event was hosted by Maebe A. Girl, who became the first drag queen elected to public office in the United States, after being elected to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in 2019. Pageant judges included: Queen Mother Karina Samala and Emperor Eugene Maysky of the Imperial Court; Ebony Lane; City of West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne; and Kiki Xtravaganza.
Mayor Pro Tem John Erickson, and council member Chelsea Byers were also at the event for the earlier part of the pageant.
Drag Kings and Queens were invited to compete for the crown in three rounds: Formal Wear, Question and Answer, and Talent.
The event provided a live DJ, voter registration table, a Harvey Milk photo opportunity, milk and cookies, information tables from local organizations, and custom typewritten poetry provided by Pride Poets.
And the Winner is…
First runner up was Virgina X, third runner up was Aunda, and fourth was Roger-Roger. Girlie won a crown and a cash prize. There were nine contestants in total
José Julio Sarria was the first openly gay man to run for office in the United States when he ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961. He was unsuccessful in his run, but he garnered 6,000 votes and set in motion the idea that a gay voting bloc could wield real power. In this way, he helped pave the way for Harvey Milk’s successful run for office. José Julio Sarria was also a well-known drag performer under the name Window Norton, and founded the International Imperial Court System which is one of the oldest and largest LGBT organizations in the world.
Harvey Milk Day was established in 2009 by the California State Legislature and it was signed into law by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2015, West Hollywood became the first city in the nation to observe Harvey Milk Day as an official holiday and has held events commemorating the day since 2010. Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected leader in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. (Out lesbian Kathy Kozachenko was elected to the Ann Arbor City Council in Michigan in 1974 — becoming the first openly gay person elected to political office in the United States.) In November 1978, Milk was assassinated by Supervisor Dan White after only 11 months in office. In 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk with a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the LGBT movement.
More information about the WeHo Pride Arts Festival is available at www.wehopride.com/artsfestival. Information about WeHo Pride Weekend, which takes place June 2-4, 2023, is available at www.wehopride.org.